T Bone Burnett, 'Tooth of Crime' (Nonesuch)

4
Tooth of Crime
Critical Mass
Label: Nonesuch

by David Browne

Few musicians conjure apocalyptic dread better than Burnett, and few plays foresaw a world of toxic entertainment more presciently than Sam Shepard's 1972 Tooth of Crime. So a Burnett album based on Shepard's old project makes sense. But between the singer/songwriter's hectoring-preacher delivery and predictable surf-guitar-noir arrangements, the result is one dreary sermon. Even moments of potential transcendence -- like the lofty "Kill Zone," co-written with the late Roy Orbison -- feel leaden. When Burnett opens his mouth, he brings everything down, and not just mankind.

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